Md. prosecutors defend Beltway sniper’s 6 life sentences

WASHINGTON — Almost 15 years after the Capital Beltway sniper rampage that left 10 dead, lawyers for Lee Boyd Malvo will be in a Montgomery County, Maryland, courtroom, arguing that his six life sentences are unconstitutional.

Malvo’s attorneys say a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes retroactive a previous order deeming mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder unconstitutional.

Prosecutors counter the 2016 ruling doesn’t apply to Malvo, who was 17 when he was arrested in 2002.

A hearing is set for June 15 in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Malvo was initially found guilty of capital murder in Fairfax County in 2003, and was sentenced to life in prison. The trial was held in Chesapeake, Virginia.

In 2004, he pleaded guilty to murder in Spotsylvania County, and received another life in prison sentence in Virginia.

Two years later, Malvo pleaded guilty to six murder charges in Montgomery County, and testified against accomplice John Allen Muhammad in Maryland. Muhammad was executed in Virginia in 2009.

Malvo’s public defender, James Johnston, filed a motion in January 2017, arguing Malvo should be resentenced because of the 2016 high court decision.

“Maryland’s sentencing scheme for juvenile homicide offenders includes a mandatory life sentence for first-degree murder, which Mr. Malvo was subjected to in this case,” Johnston wrote.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy argues Malvo’s life sentences in Maryland were not mandatory.

“Under the plea agreement, the court had the discretion to impose any sentence authorized by the first-degree murder statute,” wrote McCarthy, which includes the possibility of parole.

In the “State’s Response to Defendant’s Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence,” prosecutors quoted Circuit Court Judge James Ryan, saying Malvo “knowingly, willingly, and voluntarily participated in the cowardly murders of innocent, defenseless human beings.”

Prosecutors said Ryan determined Malvo was “the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects ‘irreparable corruption'” before sentencing him to six consecutive life sentences.

Malvo will likely never spend much time in a Maryland prison. He is currently serving a life sentence at Red Onion State Prison, in Pound, Virginia.

Malvo’s attorneys in Virginia filed a similar request for resentencing, based on the 2016 Supreme Court ruling. That case is being argued in federal court in Norfolk.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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